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Breastfeed Anyway: Nipple Shield Help

by Susan Markland, Escondido, California

I considered myself fortunate, because despite my much anticipated VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) turning into a second cesarean section, and despite not holding my baby girl until she was two hours old, when I did finally hold her to my breast her little mouth opened wide, eagerly latched on and sucked vigorously.

I held her, nursed her, or slept with her nearly round the clock in the hospital. The nurses took her away for a few minutes each evening to weigh her. I learned to wake when the nurses came in, and pretend I had just brought her to bed briefly to suck. One nurse warned me to be careful, or “she will want to sleep with you all the time.” I told her that would be OK with me.

I reveled in my good fortune of having a healthy, hungry baby. With each powerful suck I felt my uterus shrink smaller and smaller. My nipples were a bit sore, but it was a pleasant soreness. My son had weaned when he was almost three, so it had been a good two years since I had nursed a child. My milk came in, in abundance, nothing stayed dry. I soaked shirts, bras, nursing pads. I went topless and soaked the top of my pants. After a shower I dripped endlessly. I felt I could feed a third world country.

Soon my nipples were chapped, peeling and sore. And I had a baby who sucked like there was no tomorrow. About a week after Megan’s birth my right nipple cracked and bled. It became so painful to nurse her I cried out in pain when she latched on.

Before long I was breastfeeding on my less sore side, and pumping on the other. I tried lanolin and calendula ointment after feedings, but found only temporary relief. I used the football hold, cradling her and lying down to nurse. My nipple was so big and her mouth so small; she was doing the best she could.

Fortunately, my obstetrician never once said the “f” word, formula. He suggested I rent an electric breastpump, but I wasn’t keen on the idea. I inquired about nipple shields at the local breastfeeding center and was warned a lot of babies don’t accept them, and even if they do, they can’t suck hard enough to pull the nipple into the shield.

Megan’s incredible c.s.p., extra suction power had already been shown, but I did wonder if she would accept the faux nipples. For $8 a pair, it was worth the gamble.

At Megan’s next feeding, I placed the shield on my ultra-sore right nipple. Instead of thinking “ouch, ouch,” I thought “healthy baby, healthy baby,” as she latched on to the silicone shield, pulled my nipple through and nursed contentedly. There was some discomfort, but not the excruciating pain of before. I used them on and off for a couple of weeks so Megan would still know her Mommy’s fleshy nipples. She nursed eagerly from both. I admit it was odd using the silicone nipples over my own, but they worked for us and soon were put away forever.

Not one drop of smelly formula passed my baby’s lips. Soreness faded to a pleasant tingle and now my nipples yearn for my daughter’s hearty tug. Nursing is a pleasurable, calming time for both of us. Breastfed is best fed: oh so true.


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